habitat thailand: day three

Today I started to question this whole gig. It feels more than a little strange in a country where labor is cheap to have paid money to come here to build houses with a team of twelve other people who have little or no construction experience, when the same money could have paid for more than twice the number of experienced builders. I don’t want to be cynical, but feels just slightly artificial, designed to make some well-to-do foreigners feel better about ourselves.

We were split into two groups today, and I worked with four other team members and a dozen or so local construction guys to transport and raise eighteen concrete columns and set them into the footing holes of two houses. It was hard work, and it felt good to have done it. But there were a few local guys just hanging around, and it made me scratch my head a little.

Meanwhile, the folks I’m with are so eager to lend a hand it’s comical sometimes. If a guy turns and reaches for, say, a shovel to scoop sand into a basket, my habitat compadres leap into action. One goes for a shovel, another a basket. Without really knowing what the guy wants to do with them. Or knowing only perhaps that the sand is for mixing into mortar. So the sign language ensues.

Shoulder shrug, hands in the “huh?” position [how many baskets?].

Wrinkled brow, some words in Thai [I don’t know what you’re asking me].

Or, maybe no wrinkled brow and some other words in Thai [add six baskets of sand].


And so it goes. Eventually, the baskets get filled with sand and tossed into the mortar mix, and all is good.

I think I’m just cranky. Having someone who’s never done a thing in her life tell me how I should do that thing is something that apparently rubs me the wrong way.

I’m also feeling pretty done with traveling alone, after almost a year in Singapore and weeks of travel in the region, here I am again. If I didn’t have to use this two weeks before the end of the year, I’d have saved it.

But what a thing to complain about. My Singapore stint was an experience I wouldn’t trade for anything, and I’m sure this will be too.

My eyes are puffy and sore.